Just in time for the Holidays, Matthew Grice has returned to the JBR blog with the next installment of The Video Games of Bond. If you haven’t read the previous installments, you can check them out here:
Matthew takes us on a journey through the history of the Bond video games as well as his memories playing the games. It’s a fascinating read whether you’re a gamer or not. So settle in, enjoy, and let us know what you remember about these games in the comments section.
by Matthew Grice
In November of 2002 the James Bond franchise celebrated its 40th anniversary on the big screen. This coincided with the release of the 20th Bond film ‘Die Another Day,’ which became Brosnan’s fourth and final Bond film. Some Bond fans and gamers speculated that EA would publish a Die Another Day tie-in video game to coincide with the film’s release. Issue 66 of the Nintendo Gamecube Magazine reported “EA’s latest Bond game title ‘Agent Under Fire’ may not appear on GameCube and XBox consoles in Europe. Playstation 2 has a six-month exclusivity deal, and as Agent Under Fire was released in November in America on the PS2 console, it cannot be released until May time in Europe. The problem is caused because ‘Phoenix Rising’, EAs next Bond game, is out in November to coincide with ‘Die Another Day’ being released in Cinemas.”
Phoenix Rising was originally meant to have been loosely based on Die Another Day. It was said that an early level of the game had James Bond jumping from a Seahawk Helicopter on to a hovercraft. In the interval between Agent Under Fire and what would become Nightfire, EA obtained the licence to use the likenesses of some of the Die Another Day cast including John Cleese, Halle Berry, and Rosamund Pike. This was enough news for Bond fans to think that Phoenix Rising was going to be EA’s version of Die Another Day.
Unfortunately Phoenix Rising is one of those ‘lost’ Bond products which belongs in the same box as Jeffery Jenkins Per Fine Ounce and the un-produced third Dalton film alongside with EA’s aborted adaption of Casino Royale.
Instead, EA switched up its plans and eventually released the game we now know as Nightfire. In keeping with the intent to celebrate the franchise’s 40th anniversary, there were great homages to the past films just as Die Another Day had attempted on screen. Unlike Die Another Day, however, Nightfire remains a much beloved video game among Bond fans. There is driving level where you are behind a wheel of an Aston Martin Vanquish on ice,(The Living Daylights and Die Another Day) a sequence which involves Bond sliding down a cable car line (Moonraker) also it included a scene where the Vanquish turned amphibian (The Spy Who Loved Me) and the last part of the game is based in space (Moonraker)
Nightfire was developed by Eurocom for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, the Xbox, as well as PC, which gave it an edge over Agent Under Fire.
In Nightfire, James Bond is pitted against megalomaniac Raphael Drake, the world’s largest green-industrialist and the president of Phoenix International. Phoenix International is known to dismantle unnecessary nuclear weapons and power plants to help make the world a safer place. After some Bond style twists and turns Phoenix International is soon suspected to be connected to the theft of an American Missile Guidance Hardware. We learn that Mr Drake’s plans are in fact to take over the world, not to make it a safer place.
In my opinion Nightfire is a little better than Agent Under Fire only because there are more rail/driving levels and it offers more of a cinematic Bond value such as a gun barrel and a ‘pre-title sequence’ level that is followed by a Daniel Kleinman-esque title sequence accompanied by it’s very own theme tune ‘Nearly Civilised’ performed by Canadian singer ‘Esthero’. It also has its own music score which I believe is available to download somewhere. This was composed by Ed Lima and Jeff Tymoschuk and was heavily influenced by David Arnold’s score for the film of Tomorrow Never Dies.
Nightfire is another first person shooter, a platform that Bond video games have utilized with much success in the past. It also contains a multiplayer level, which is great fun. The game consists of 12 levels which start from Paris, Austria, Tokyo, Australia and then finally outer space. Even though the last time I played it was 3 years ago I did find the game play a bit more difficult than Agent Under Fire. The final level does become quite difficult and frustrating as you are floating in space.
Original character Zoe Nightshade from Agent Under Fire, makes a comeback. While the likeness of Pierce Brosnan was used, it was Maxwell Cualfield who provided the voice-over. The use of Brosnan’s likeness as well as the appearance of the Aston Martin Vanquish were the only recognizable tie-ins from Die Another Day. Today, most gamers and Bond fans wouldn’t associate Nightfire as a promotional tie-in for Die Another Day, which in retrospect is a good thing.
I received Nightfire as a gift for Christmas in 2002 and was ecstatic to play it. One of my father’s friends even said ‘wait till you have sex, how on earth will you react then’
Like Agent Under Fire I adapted it to fan fiction form and wrote 55 pages and ten chapters. Even though a typical Fleming novel would have reached chapter 5 on the 55th page. I must admit that I’m not great at writing fan fiction, but enjoyed it after the feedback and encouragement from the well known CommanderBond.net forums.
Everything Or Nothing
In the world of cinematic James Bond, things are usually established and recognised on the third attempt. The perfect example is that of Goldfinger. Goldfinger was the third Bond film and is what is said to be the blueprint for future Bond films. It’s what made Sean Connery’s portrayal of Bond iconic while also propelling his career as an actor to new heights. In Electronic Arts case with regards to their Bond video games, 2003’s Everything Or Nothing became what I believe to be their best Bond game. In my opinion, this outing delivered more cinematic values than that of the previous two original games. The game not only featured Brosnan’s likeness but also his voice as well. John Cleese, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Shannon Elizabeth, and Heidi Klum all provide voice-over performances, which make this feel worthy of a true Bond adventure for its time.
Like Nightfire, it opens up with a gun barrel followed by an exciting pre-title sequence, and an original song sung by Mya Harrison, who also made a brief appearance in the game. All this plus third person perspective, which hadn’t been used since 1999’s Tomorrow Never Dies, which I think is what makes a Bond game a Bond film especially when you can have hand to hand combat and interact with objects, such as picking up things to use them as weapons. The daunting and dramatic orchestral score by Sean Callery, who had worked on the American TV series 24 adds an epic sense of flare to the proceedings.
The story of the game is completely original and is written by Bruce Feirstein who wrote Brosnan’s first two films and would later work on the video game version of From Russia With Love.
It is interesting to note that there are a few things that seem to link Everything Or Nothing to the Moore era of Bond films. First, there’s Jaws, who made his first appearance in The Spy Who Loved Me; then, there’s a mention of Max Zorin who was the psychotic villain in A View To A Kill; and then there is a scene were we see Mya Harrison, who plays NSA agent Mya Sterling performing the title song in the Kiss Kiss Club in New Orleans. New Orleans was a location in Live and Let Die plus there was female singer who performed the title song of that film.
There are several driving levels, which contain the likes of the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, a Triumph Daytona and a Porsche Cayenne. There is also a nod to Goldeneye where you are behind the controls of a tank.
In my opinion, the Everything Or Nothing video could even substitute for a fifth Pierce Brosnan James Bond film. What makes it different from Agent Under Fire and Nightfire is how cinematic it is. There are a lot more features such as an inventory, the third person view and the people who star in it. It remains my favorite of the EA Bond video games.
To break tradition I didn’t receive this for Christmas, as it wasn’t available. Originally it was to be released in November 2003 but got delayed until February 2004. If memory serves me well I think I purchased this at Asda at one of my many Saturday morning shopping trips. It was however released on the Nintendo Game Boy advance in December of 2003, and then subsequently released on PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube and Xbox.
Unfortunately I only played this once and only finished it via cheating as I found the game difficulty increased as you progressed through the levels. However, I would love to play this game again.
Goldeneye: Rogue Agent
On 22nd November 2004 Electronic Arts released their 7th James Bond video Game. Goldeneye: Rogue Agent. Whether or not to call it a James Bond video game is somewhat debatable, as you never play as James Bond. Instead you take control of another MI6 agent called Jack Hunter, who lost the use of his right eye after having been wounded by Dr No. He was then condemned unfit for duty so he joins Auric Goldfinger’s branch of SPECTRE and gets a bionic ‘Goldeneye’ fitted that was designed by Francisco Scaramanga. Surely Steve Austin would have been a better name than Jack Hunter.
I had received this for Christmas 2004 and can remember trying to play it with a hangover. Whether this explains why I have bad memories playing it or if it is natural for me to feel bad for playing something that was pretty much a balls up.
However I will give credit to EA for casting Christopher Lee to voice his own creation of Scaramanga and having Judi Dench to provide the voice of M and to ask Sir Ken Adam to design some of the levels, which of course gives it a Bond feel. I can’t remember much about the game apart from I never finished it and would like to play it again to see if my opinion on it has changed. All I can remember is that it was a first person shooter that featured a multiplayer mode.
Even though it included Dr No, Ernest Stavro Blofeld, Goldfinger, Oddjob, Pussy Galore, Xenia Onnatop and James Bond (only briefly) as well as a few exotic locations from the Bond films, it still didn’t give me a wow factor. I felt EA had ruined it by bringing some of the classic villains back in modern times and just made it so far away from the Bond world we know. One reason for its failure might have to do with the fact that the game was forced to abadon it’s original concept, which was to recast the likeness of some classic Bond characters with well-known actors. Jessica Beil was supposed to lend her likeness and voice to play an updated version of Pussy Galore, for example. Once the creators were forced to change course, it seems like they rushed to put out a game that was doomed to be inferior to other recent Bond games. Much to EA’s disappointment, Goldeneye: Rogue Agent didn’t sell very well. I wouldn’t be surprised if it became their first worst selling Bond game. This forced them to cancelling a sequel that would have included a longer story and driving levels.
It is interesting to note that SPECTRE was seen but never mentioned, but was described as a “powerful criminal organization” that was based in an underwater lair known as ‘The OCTOPUS’. Obviously, Electronic Arts had probably been made aware of the tenuous legal status of the use of SPECTRE at that time.
DJ Paul Oakenfold composed some heavy, techno/dance music for the game. He had previously done a cover for the James Bond theme to coincide with Die Another Day. He also added a bit of Bond to what could have been the least unlikely song that you could have connected to James Bond (a Bit like this game). British singer Natasha Beddingfeild’s ‘If You’re Gonna Jump’ was heard over the end credits seemed more Bond- esque than that of ‘Nearly Civilised’ that was used for Nightfire. Interestingly, the chorus of the song does match up with an 8-note riff that can be heard on what sounded like chimes for the first level of Goldeneye 64.
Electronic Arts realised that Goldeneye: Rogue Agent was a mistake and that you can never copy or try and put your own mark on a classic. Some time things are never as good as the first.
This is why Electronic Arts had done something rather cool, and made their future for Bond gaming look anything better than good. I’m sure many Bond fans and avid gamers will agree that what EA would publish next would make up for the poor game that was Goldeneye: Rogue Agent.
007: From Russia With Love
This brings us to 2005 when Electronic Arts developed its best Bond game since Everything Or Nothing, which would turn out to be its last. This was of course 007: From Russia With Love, which was based on the film as well as Ian Fleming’s original novel. Most Bond fans tend to regard 1983’s Never Say Never Again as Sean Connery’s final Bond outing although even that film tends to be slated as “unofficial” because it was a non-EON film. Whatever one might think of NSNA, there is one final chapter in Connery’s tenure as James Bond that tends to be forgotten today nearly 12 years later. In an unexpected move, Connery decided to reprise the role of James Bond by not only allowing his likeness to be used but also granting full access to his voice-over services recording new dialogue .
Additional scenes were added such as a car chase through Istanbul featuring the Aston Martin DB5 and a sequence taking Bond through the skies of night-time London on a jet pack to rescue Elizabeth Stark, the prime ministers daughter voiced by Natasha Beddingfeild. Generally, more action scenes were added to accommodate the format of telling this classic story through a video game, but it’s done in a way that still honors the source material. Even though the Jetpack and Aston Martin never featured in the film, it still works pretty well and I think most Bond fans would welcome these iconic callbacks to the overall franchise.
I received this for Christmas 2005 and found it relatively easy to complete. It was developed as third person shooter and featured the voice and likeness of Sir Sean Connery, which I think is what made this a brilliant Bond game. In my opinion its just as good as Goldeneye64, but it turn out to be EA’s final outing as Activision soon took over the licencing of Bond video games.
007: From Russia With Love features M, Moneypenny, Tatiana Romanova, Red Grant and Rosa Klebb plus new additional characters such as Elizabeth Stark and Eva Adara. Following from what EA had done in Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, they had cleverly changed the name of SPECTRE to OCTOPUS and there doesn’t seem to be any mention of Ernest Stavro Blofeld.
Overall this is a fantastic Bond game as it features a gun barrel, pre-title sequence and an all new title sequence. The Christopher Lennertz score sounds John Barry-esque. For Sean Connery to return to the world of Bond, I think surprised many fans as he pretty much keeps himself distant from the whole Bond thing. It made me wonder what might other games potentially be like if Connery decided to continue in this vein. A Goldfinger game as a follow up to this one would might have turned out to be a worthwhile pursuit.
Interestingly EA had planned to develop another original Bond game instead, using the working title for Nightfire that was Phoenix Rising. This was intended to be a sequel and would have used the voice and likeness of Pierce Brosnan. Of course Brosnan would officially depart from the role in 2005 after negotiations for what would have been his fifth outing broke down. The Bond cinematic franchise would make a dramatic change, and a new era of Bond was about to begin.
article by Matthew Grice